Tag Archives: Royal Dutch Shell and Nigeria

An Unforgettable Type of Pollution

May 2018: The environmental damage around the site of two Royal Dutch Shell oil spills in Nigeria a decade ago has worsened significantly after years of delay to cleanup efforts, according to a report that the oil giant has been accused of trying to shield from public view.  The spills from a ruptured Shell pipeline spewed thousands of barrels of oil over parts of the Bodo fishing community in the crude-rich Niger Delta. Although the company in 2015 reached an out-of-court settlement with the local community, admitting to liability and agreeing to pay £55 million, or around $80 million at the time, in compensation, controversy around the case has remained.

A United Nations body, in a 2011 report, found extensive environmental damage around Bodo. Four years later, an assessment to prepare the cleanup found soil contamination had worsened while cleanup efforts languished and illegal refining and oil theft added to pollution in the area, according to an academic paper published last month. That has left the community facing potentially toxic pollution and “catastrophic” damage to the environment, the paper said.  The 2015 analysis was commissioned by the Bodo Mediation Initiative, a consortium established to oversee the cleanup in the area. Shell is a member of the group along with local stakeholders.

At least one of the authors urged the findings to be widely distributed because they pointed to significant health risks to the local community. Kay Holtzmann, the cleanup project’s former director, said in a letter reviewed by the Journal that Shell had denied him permission to publish the study’s results in a scientific journal.

But the academic paper* said the site survey contained new facts. The average surface soil contamination in Bodo had tripled since the original U.N. probe,the paper said. Out of 32 samples taken from the top two inches of soil in the area around Bodo, only one was within Nigeria’s legally acceptable limit for oil contamination, the paper added.

Excerpts from Pollution Worsens Around Shell Oil Spills in Nigeria, Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2018.

*Sediment Hydrocarbons in Former Mangrove Areas, Southern Ogoniland, Eastern Niger Delta, Nigeria, Apr. 2018

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A Way of Life: Blowing Up Pipelines

image from http://www.nigerdeltaavengers.org/

Leaders from Nigeria's Niger Delta called on President Muhammadu Buhari to pull the army out from the oil hub, order oil firms to move headquarters there and spend more on development to end militancy in the region.  Buhari met leaders from the southern swampland for the first time since militants started a wave of attacks on oil pipelines in January 2016 to push for a greater share of oil revenues.

At the meeting in the presidential villa in Abuja, Niger Delta leaders, joined by representatives of militant groups, gave Buhari a list of 16 demands to pacify the impoverished region where many say they do not benefit from the oil wealth...

The delegation leader said oil firms should move headquarters to the region so unemployed youths - who often work for militants - could get more jobs. Foreign firms active in Nigeria are often based in the commercial capital Lagos.  The Niger Delta leaders also asked for more funds for the development and an amnesty plan for former fighters which Buhari had planned to cut.

The attacks, which put four key export streams under force majeure, had led production to plunge to 1.37 million barrels per day in May, the lowest level since July 1988, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), from 2.2 million barrels in January 2016.

Nigeria agreed on a ceasefire with major militant groups in 2009 to end an earlier insurgency. But previously unknown groups have since taken up arms after authorities tried to arrest a former militant leader on corruption charges.  Under a 2009 amnesty, fighters who lay down arms receive training and employment. However, of the $300 million annual funding set aside for this, much ends up in the pockets of "generals" or officials, analysts say - an endemic problem in a country famous for graft.

Any ceasefire would be difficult to enforce as militants are splintered into small groups of angry, young unemployed men even their leaders struggle to control.

A major group, the Niger Delta Avengers, had initially declared a ceasefire in August 2016 but then claimed another attack in October 2016 .

Excerpts from Niger Delta leaders want army out, Reuters, Nov. 2, 2016

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Showing their Claws-Ogoni versus Royal Dutch Shell

shell

The widow of a Nigerian activist is planning to sue Royal Dutch Shell in the Dutch courts alleging the oil company was complicit in the execution of her husband by the Nigerian military in 1995, court documents filed in the United States/Esther Kiobel has filed an application in New York to secure documents from Shell’s US lawyers, which she could use in the Dutch action.

The filings with the US District Court for the Southern District Court of New York said she planned to begin the action before the end of the year.“Ms. Kiobel will demonstrate that Shell encouraged, facilitated, and conspired with the Nigerian government to commit human rights violations against the Ogoni people,” a memorandum in the application filed last week said.
Kiobel previously took her lawsuit to the United States but the US Supreme Court ruled in 2013 the case could not be heard because the alleged activities took place outside the country.

In 2009 prior to that ruling Shell had agreed in the United States to pay $15.5 million to settle lawsuits related to other activists executed at the same time as Barinem Kiobel, including author and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.    [three separate lawsuits were brought by the family of Ken Saro-Wiwa].

The Nigerian military cracked down heavily on local opposition to oil production by a Shell joint venture in the Niger Delta in the early 1990s. Kiobel alleges that Shell provided support to the military in its crackdown.  A Dutch court ruled in December that Shell may be sued in the Netherlands for oil spills at its subsidiary in Nigeria, although it did not say Shell was responsible..

Excerpts from Shell faces possible Dutch lawsuit over Nigerian activist’s execution, Reuters, Oct. 18, 2016

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Fishermen + Farmers Against Shell

shell gas station. Image from wikipedia

Tens of thousands of Nigerian fishermen and farmers are suing multinational oil giant Shell in two new lawsuits filed on March 2, 2016 in a British High Court, alleging that decades of uncleaned oil spills have destroyed their lives.  London law firm Leigh Day & Co. is representing them after winning an unprecedented $83.5 million in damages from Shell in a landmark ruling by the same court last year. Shell originally offered villagers $50,000.

In a statement on March 2, 2016 before the trial opened, Shell blamed sabotage and oil theft for the ongoing pollution and noted it had halted oil production in 1993 in Ogoniland, the area where the two communities are located in Nigeria's oil-rich southern Niger Delta.  Shell said it will challenge the jurisdiction of the British court.

The Ogoni are among the most traumatized of millions of Nigerians suffering oil pollution since the late 1950s....

Excerpts from  MICHELLE FAUL, Nigerians sue Shell in UK court for oil spills contamination, Associated Press, Mar. 2, 2016

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6,000 km Pipelines, How Many Lawsuits against Shell, Nigeria

shell company logo--always a Shell, image from wikipedia

A Dutch appeals court ruled on December 18, 2015 that Royal Dutch Shell can be held liable for oil spills at its subsidiary in Nigeria, potentially opening the way for other compensation claims against the multinational. Judges in The Hague ordered Shell to make available to the court documents that might shed light on the cause of the oil spills and whether leading managers were aware of them.  This ruling overturned a 2013 finding by a lower Dutch court that Shell’s Dutch-based parent company could not be held liable for spills at its Nigerian subsidiary.

The legal dispute dates back to 2008, when four Nigerian farmers and the campaign group Friends of the Earth filed a suit against the oil company in the Netherlands, where its global headquarters is based.  “Shell can be taken to court in the Netherlands for the effects of the oil spills,” the court ruling stated on Friday. “Shell is also ordered to provide access to documents that could shed more light on the cause of the leaks.”  The case will continue to be heard in March 2016.  Judge Hans van der Klooster said the court had found that it “has jurisdiction in the case against Shell and its subsidiary in Nigeria”....

“There are 6,000km of Shell pipelines and thousands of people living along them in the Niger Delta,” he said. “Other people in Nigeria can bring cases and that could be tens of billions of euros in damages.”  In a separate case, Shell agreed in January to pay out £55m ($82 million) in out-of-court compensation for two oil spills in Nigeria in 2008, after agreeing a settlement with the affected community in the Delta.

Excerpt from Dutch appeals court says Shell may be held liable for oil spills in Nigeria, Guardian, Dec. 18, 2015.

Shell in Nigeria: the Attitude

Shell and the Nigerian Government

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What is Not New: Shell Oil Pollution in Nigeria

Bayelsa on Niger Delta

Farmers impacted by the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, Kolo Creek oil fields spill in Otuasega, Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, have gone to court over the April 15, 2015 spill, which polluted their farms.According to the farmers, they were excluded from a Joint Investigation Visit to probe the impact of the spill despite their attempt to draw the attention of the team to their impacted farms.

A fish farmer, Mr. Aku Asei, whose three ponds were impacted, said the affected farmers numbering over 50 resolved to take legal action over the incident in the wake of the alleged claim of sabotage by Shell."This is a clear case of the powerful and rich oil firm against the weak and poor farmers. They are claiming that the spill was caused by sabotage and abandoned the polluted environment. The regulations which they relied on to absolve themselves clearly stated that the operator of the field where pollution occurs must clean up the site irrespective of the cause but SPDC officials declined to capture the farms as impacted areas....[T]he spill was as a result of negligence by SPDC surveillance contractors deployed to guard the facility...

The farmers, made up of fish farmers, banana and plantain plantation owners in the area also appealed to Bayelsa State Government to assist them in prevailing on the oil firm to clean up the areas and pay compensation to them.
Nigeria: Farmers Take Shell to Court Over Oil Spill Impact in Bayelsa, AllAfrica.com, May 12, 2015

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Bonga Oil Spill: the Nigerian Perspective against Shell

The Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi has slammed Anglo Dutch oil giant, Shell for the way and manner it handles oil spill in the country, especially in the oil and gas rich Niger Delta region.  He said the response of the foremost oil firm to oil spillages in the country fell short of international standards and practices.  The helmsman of Nigeria’s apex maritime regulatory authority spoke against the backdrop of the Bonga oil spill incident which wreaked havoc in many communities in the Niger Delta region in 2011.

The National Assembly had last week through the House of Representatives Committee on Environment, organised a public hearing over the incident.  Recounting NIMASA's experience during the incident, Akpobolokemi said that the oil giant tried as much as possible to frustrate the agency's attempts to move to the site of the spill.  As a stop gap measure, he explained that the agency provided some relief material to some of the communities affected by the spill.  Akpobolokemi flayed Shell for it poor response and nonchalant attitude towards spill incidents in the Niger Delta area and called for an immediate stop to this.

Said he: “The kind of impunity Shell and its allies have demonstrated so far in the Niger Delta area in the past must stop if the future of the people of Nigeria and the environment are to be protected," adding that in other countries when spills like this occur, the first thing is remuneration, attention to the affected communities and finding ways of reducing the sufferings of the people and restoring the ecosystem, which Shell has failed to do. "Shell fell short of all these criteria and of course it is sad that it is only in Nigeria that we can witness this degree of impunity.

“We in NIMASA see this as a serious infraction to our laws, communities and the damage done to the communities and the ecosystem can be seen as genocide. When a similar spill occurred in the gulf of Mexico, Shell was alive to its responsibilities, they were made to pay compensation to the affected communities but today in Nigeria, any spill that occur, a claim of sabotage or third party claims are the order of the day." He said NIMASA had made presentations before the House Committee on Environment, asking SNEPCO to pay compensation, not an administrative fee, to the communities totalling $6.5 billion.

“The response from Shell was evasive and do not suggest that it is a company that is alive to its responsibility. It believes that the culture of impunity can continue to go on, thereby playing with our legal system. May we use this opportunity to correct the wrong that has been done to the Nigerian environment because of the callousness of this company and we stand by our position that compensation must be paid to the communities.

"What we expect Shell to do is to come to the negotiating table and discuss with the affected communities on the means of payment so that the communities can get back their natural eco-system”.

John Iwori, Bonga Oil Spill: NIMASA Slams Shell, http://www.thisdaylive.com/,  Feb. 14, 2014

Shell Response

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Shell Gives Bad Information on Oil Spills in Nigeria

Shell Logo

At Amnesty International and CEHRD’s request, the independent US oil pipeline specialist Accufacts assessed a number of oil spill investigation reports, as well as responses from oil companies operating in the Niger Delta and Nigeria’s national oil spill agency.  The expert found cases where the stated cause of an oil spill appears to be wrongly attributed to sabotage [by the local population]. In many other cases sabotage was listed as the cause when there was little or no data recorded to back up the claim.  [report in pdf]

Overall, Accufacts concluded that many official investigation reports were “technically incomplete”, and others “appear to be serving another agenda, more driven by politics…than pipeline forensic science”.  Nigeria’s under-resourced regulatory agencies have little oversight or control of the process and are dependent on the oil companies to carry out investigations.

In one incident, a regulator sent a student on work experience as their sole representative to an oil spill investigation.  “This is a system that is wide open to abuse – and abuse happens. There is no one to challenge the oil companies and almost no way to independently verify what they say. In effect it’s ‘trust us – we’re big oil,” said Gaughran.

Shell has made some improvements to its investigation reports since 2011, including the addition of images of oil spills on its corporate website. But serious flaws remain, including weaknesses in the underlying evidence used to attribute spills to sabotage.  Information listed in oil spill investigation reports determines whether oil companies are liable to pay compensation to affected communities.  Despite serious flaws, the reports are cited as evidence in litigation.

Amnesty International and CEHRD found evidence of Shell having changed the officially recorded cause of a spill after an investigation had taken place. In one incident, secretly filmed video of an investigation shows how officials from Shell and the regulator tried to subvert the evidence by persuading community members on the investigation team not to attribute the cause to equipment failure. Video footage of a leak from an oil spill in Bodo from 2008 reviewed by Accufacts shows that Shell seriously under-recorded the volume spilled.  Shell’s official investigation report claims only 1,640 barrels of oil were spilled in total but other evidence points to the amount being at least 60 times higher...

The report argues that companies should be legally liable for failure to take effective action to protect their systems, including from sabotage.

Amnesty International and CEHRD are calling on the oil companies to publish all investigation reports, associated photos and videos. They must provide verifiable evidence of the cause and damage to the impacted area.

Shell’s false claims on Niger Delta oil spills exposed, Amnesty International Press Release, Nov. 7, 2013

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Shell in Nigeria: the Trans-Niger Pipeline Pollution

nigeria

A major fire that forced Shell to close its Trans Niger Pipeline in southern Nigeria raises serious questions about the way the oil giant is operating, Amnesty International and the Nigerian National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills (NACGOND) (an NGO) said.The organizations called for an independent inquiry into the events that led to the fire at Bodo in Rivers State - an area already devastated by years of oil pollution.

Eight Shell contractors were arrested by Nigerian security services in connection with the fire that broke out last week (June 19, 2013), following an oil spill at a section of the pipeline near Bodo that was being repaired by Shell contractors.A Shell-led investigation into the cause of the fire is due to begin this week.

Shell claims the fire was a consequence of oil theft. However, community members told NACGOND that in the days leading up to the fire Nigerian security forces prevented anyone other than Shell's contractors going near the area of the spill. From the shore people saw barges being loaded with oil and taken away from the site.  "Shell's investigation into the cause of the fire is not enough," said Tracy Adole of NACGOND. "What's needed is a fully transparent and independent inquiry into what happened at Bodo in the days before the fire and the role - and competence - of Shell's contractors. There are serious unanswered questions as to who Shell entrusted with the high-risk repair of the pipeline, and about its own level of oversight."

The fire broke out following an oil spill on 11 June in an area where Shell contractors were working on maintenance and repairs. The area was guarded by security forces apparently preventing unauthorised access. Local residents attempted to visit the site to asses the scale of the spill but were turned back.  Witnesses reported seeing oil being loaded onto barges by Shell's contractors for several days after the spill.  "The facts make it difficult to believe that anyone other than Shell's contractors were in the vicinity in the days leading up to the fire," said Tracy Adole. "Shell was quick to blame oil theft as the cause of the latest pollution and fire at Bodo, but the company has yet to fully answer for the role of its own contractors."

Over the last decade, Shell has claimed that most of the oil spilt in the Niger Delta is due to oil theft and sabotage of its pipelines. The company bases these claims on a system that includes publicly contested data and relies almost exclusively on information provided by the company itself.The alleged theft and sabotage cases have not been verified by any independent bodies.

Last week, NCP, found that Shell's statements that sabotage is responsible for most oil spilt in Nigeria were based on disputed evidence and flawed investigations.

In 2008 two massive oil spills occurred at Bodo in the Niger Delta. Both were the result of operational failures by Shell. Despite the enormous environmental damage done, Shell never cleaned up the spills. The community has now taken their case to the UK courts to seek compensation and clean up.  In 2011 a major scientific study carried out by the UN Environmental Programme documented serious problems with Shell's response to oil spills. The same study noted that Nigerian regulators were "at the mercy" of oil companies when it comes to site visits to investigate oil spills.  Amnesty International asked Shell for a response to the latest spill and fire at Bodo and the arrest of contractors in relation to oil theft. Shell directed Amnesty to its public statement.

Nigeria: Wider Investigation Into Shell's Nigeria Operation Needed After Arrest of Contractors, Amnesty International, June 26, 2013

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Anglo-Dutch Shell and the Oil Spills in Nigeria, litigation

A European company, Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell will appear in a Dutch court to account for damage it caused abroad, Friends of the Earth International announced today.  The court case against Shell's oil spills in Nigeria has been filed by four Nigerian plaintiffs in conjunction with Friends of the Earth Netherlands and supported by Friends of the Earth Nigeria.  Lawyers for both parties will plea at a key hearing in The Hague on 11 October at 9:30am.  The verdict is expected early in 2013.  "This court case will have groundbreaking legal repercussions for multinational corporations globally, and especially for European corporations," says Geert Ritsema, globalisation campaign leader at Friends of the Earth Netherlands / Milieudefensie.  "Due to the poor maintenance of pipelines and factories, Shell let tens of millions of barrels of oil leak in the Niger Delta, with disastrous consequences for local people and the environment. The Anglo Dutch oil giant must now stop its pollution, compensate the damage and prevent more oil spills from happening," he adds.

In May 2008, four Nigerian fishermen and farmers from the villages of Goi, Ikot Ada Udo and Oruma, in conjunction with Friends of the Earth Netherlands / Milieudefensie and supported by Friends of the Earth Nigeria / ERA, started a legal case against Shell Nigeria and its parent company in the Netherlands.

The Hague court hearing will take place just 10 days after a key [October 1st] hearing of the U.S. Supreme court regarding a separate lawsuit 'Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum' brought by Nigerian refugees in the U.S. accusing Shell of helping the Nigerian military to systematically torture and kill environmentalists in the 1990s....(see pdf of District Court ruling) (see also pdf of 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals)

Shell is the operator of Nigeria's largest oil fields and bears significant responsibility for the oil pollution. The UN, among others, has stated that Shell does not comply with legal environmental standards and has failed to clean up leaked oil - or has done so only insufficiently, for decades....

Nigeria: Key Hearing in Court Case On Oil Giant Shell's Nigerian Oil Pollution, AllAfrica.com, Sept. 26, 2012

See also Shell in Nigeria

Supreme Court case is Esther Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, No. 10-1491

UN Report 50 years of oil pollution in Nigeria

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